MAUI POLICE OFFICER NELSON JOHNSON ARRESTED FOR ASSAULT
Shortly before noon on Wednesday, Nov. 20, the Maui Police arrested one of their own–Nelson Johnson–for allegedly assaulting his teenage daughter the night before, according to a Maui PD press release written by Maui PD Lt. Jayson Rego.
Here’s how Rego’s press statement described Johnson’s alleged actions:
“On November 19, 2013, at 9:40 p.m., The mother of the victim reported that her 13-year old daughter of Wailuku was slapped by her father following a verbal argument, which caused the victim to fall backward and hit her head on a wall mounted A/C unit. The fall resulted in the victim being transported to the Maui Memorial Medical Center for treatment, where it was learned that she had sustained a concussion. The victim was later released from the hospital in good condition.”
The press statement adds that Johnson, an 18-year veteran of the PD, posted his $2,000 bail on the charge of Abuse of Family and Household Member and was released. Lt. William Juan, Maui PD’s public information officer, says Johnson is now on administrative leave. Wailuku attorney David Cain, who is representing Johnson, had no comment for this story.
In case Johnson’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the same Maui Police Officer who MauiTime Publisher Tommy Russo says assaulted him back on April 12, 2011 in the Wailuku Municipal Parking Lot. If you’ll recall, Russo was out there that night attempting to photograph Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman, who was filming for his since-cancelled A&E show when members of Dog’s security team assaulted Russo. Russo then called 911, and Officer Johnson rolled up soon after. When Russo attempted to photograph Johnson, the cop then assaulted Russo. Russo later filed a civil lawsuit against the County of Maui and Johnson, which is pending in federal court.
Of course, none of that stuff involving Russo made it into either the Maui Now or Maui News stories on Johnson’s arrest–which, as I expected, were pretty thin and lacked bylines (in contrast to the positive portrayals of police officers that both media outlets typically run, which always carry an author’s name). Hell, The Maui News even buried its Johnson arrest story inside on page A4 of the Nov. 21 edition–the front page story that day was about how local retailers would be open on Thanksgiving.
Not to harp too much on this, both The Maui News and Maui Now gave far more prominent play to the Russo’s own arrest a year ago (which is still pending in District Court), which came about while he was trying to photograph two police officers who were conducting a traffic stop on Haleakala Highway.
Given such play, it’s fair to conclude that The Maui News and Maui Now feel that the arrest of a newspaper publisher while he’s photographing cops is more important than the arrest of a law enforcement officer for assaulting a teenage member of his own family.
Of course, the Maui PD made that judgment very easy for those news outlets. When they arrested Russo, the MPD sent out a detailed press release and a large booking photo. As for Johnson, check out the postage stamp mug shot the PD emailed to the press, which we’re running here in actual size.
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ABERCROMBIE APPOINTS JEFF PORTNOY TO UH REGENTS
Speaking of the media, Jeffrey Portnoy–a longtime friend of us reporters in Hawaii–just got himself appointed to the University of Hawaii Board of Regents. The appointment, while not nearly as shocking as, say, Family Guy’s killing off Brian the dog, was also certainly more substantial than, say, Mayor Alan Arakawa’s recent Memorandum of Understanding with Monsanto over their disclosing restricted-use pesticides (which are already regulated by the State of Hawaii).
“Jeff is a champion of the University of Hawaii and a respected leader in our community,” Governor Neil Abercrombie said in a Nov. 22 press release sent out by his office. “He has always been a great friend to the university community, and his leadership, insight and expertise within and beyond his field will prove a valuable asset to the UH system.”
For journalists statewide, Portnoy’s greatest accomplishment was the part he played in helping draft Hawaii’s old media shield law (which the state Legislature very nicely let expire this summer). But Portnoy also played a key role in the old SHOPO case from the early 1990s, in which a bunch of UH journalism students–assisted by their instructor, Gerald Kato–sued the Honolulu Police Department to get them to release the identities of cops who’d been sanctioned by Internal Affairs. The students made it all the way to the state Supreme Court, where they prevailed in a hollow victory–the state Legislature had already caved to State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO) lobbying and passed a law specifically protecting IA-sanctioned cops statewide from having their names released to the public.
The SHOPO Case was actually on my mind recently. See, Abercrombie is now taking from former Hawaii Governor Ben Cayetano, who a week ago announced his opposition to Abercrombie’s reelection, even though the two have reportedly been bros for about 40 years.
“Since he’s become governor he’s reversed himself on principles he used to fight for,” Cayetano said in a Nov. 18 Hawaii News Now story. “[In the past] We would take on the big guys, the unions, big business. He used to be a strong voice for the little guy. He’s not now.”
Ouch! But Cayetano is being a tad bit selective in his memory of taking on all those “big guys” back when he was governing. See, the Legislature passed that little SHOPO-inspired exemption for cops while Cayetano was in office. And since Ben Cayetano was such a thorn in the side of unions, he did the only thing he could: let it pass without his signature.
There’s not a word about Cayetano’s decision to cave to SHOPO in Ben, his supposedly truth-talking memoir that came out in 2009 (though it does contain an embarrassingly fawning introduction from Abercrombie). Now to be fair, when Honolulu Civil Beat asked Cayetano earlier this year about the vote, he did say that he should have vetoed the exemption.
So the lesson here is that Cayetano can make mistakes as governor, but Abercombie can’t. Seems fair, right?